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Man Who Archived Alawites' Political History dies

Special Reports | 2018-01-31 17:46:00
Man Who Archived Alawites' Political History dies

By Ethar Abdulhaq

(Zaman Al Wasl)- Hafez al-Assad has spread a propaganda which has dominated the Syrian arena for decades of the oppression of the Alawites and their excessive marginalization, before Hafez came to power and leadership, and built for them a "glory and a great monarchy."

It seems that spreading this propaganda was a necessity to deliver Hafez to the rank of "leader of necessity", especially for the Alawites. Since he was considered the inevitable leader indispensable, and no one can fill his place. Strangely, this propaganda was accepted – found acceptance – by most Syrians, including Alawites, who are supposed to be the most knowledgeable of their history and the conduct of their leaders.

Despite the facts of recent history, and some of Alawite historians documentations which destroy the propaganda Hafez and his gang used to seize the country, the propaganda remained strong and present in the minds of generations, until it became a fact that cannot be argued. Perhaps the death of one of the symbols of Alawites and their leaders recently in Paris is an opportunity to illuminate something from the history of the Alawites before the Assad era, and discuss this "taboo" in the context of the biography of this "leader" and his family.


According to Zaman al-Wasl’s information, Colonel Mohammad Aziz al-Hawash died on January 24, 2018 in Paris at the age of 88 years. So the life of the son of the most prominent Alawite families in leadership has ended. This leadership was inherited and generation after generation and hold its place in the country before the birth of Hafez, even before the birth of his father, "Ali al-Assad". This put us in front of a shocking fact that Hafez coup was not for the Alawite but on the contrary, it was against them. The coup was not to restore their rights which were taken from them. The propaganda of the coup was an exaggeration of the victimhood narrative to give Hafez a prominent place in the sect. The propaganda allowed Hafez to storm the inner ruling circles among Alawite and gave him preference over prominent Alawite leaders. Hafez did not belong to these ruling prominent families which were representatives of the Alawite during history starting with Ottomans and the Syrian government before Assad and the during the French Mandate. 

Mohammad Hawash was born in Safita in 1930 to a father named Aziz Bey. He was known as Abu Jihad. He had a long history of leadership and mobility among high ranking positions. Aziz himself was the son of a senior leader, Ismail, who in turn was the eldest son. The Hawash consecutively managed the affairs of the Alawite al-Matawrah Tribe. They were the prominent figures of the tribe in the perspectives of Alawites and all Syrians from the days of the Ottomans to the Hafez coup. The coup that ensured that the leadership of Hawash family would come to an end and other major Alawite families in favor of maintaining his leadership.

Before going into the history of Colonel Mohammad Aziz Hawash and his family, it must be noted that Hawash family are the same as Khair Bey family (including Hawash Khair Bey, Nasif Khair Bey), in reference to their grandfather, Ismail Khair Bey. Ismail Khair Bey was betrayed and killed by his Alawite uncle Ali al-Shleh. It was circulated that Ali delivered Ismail Bey’s head to the Ottoman government topping the list of enemies of the Alawite who they accuse of committing the most heinous massacres. Several Alawite writers refuted this narrative as our report will refute later with other narratives.

-Expelled by his community

The history documented Colonel Muhammad Aziz Hawash as the first military casualty of the March 8, 1963 coup, which was in fact a sectarian coup d'etat dressed as revolution. The coup military committee quickly released Hawash and listed his name as expelled from the army since he was not “wanted” due to his class (he was the son of a leader). This was the first indicator that reveals the character of the coup and identity, and the goal of taking the helm from the leaders of the Alawites, who were then exercising their powers and relaxed positions and without any sensitivity, and deliver this helm to the "poor" and "outcasts" Alawites to control the fate of the community and the country, based on hypnotic propaganda and toxic narratives.

Hafez al-Assad (who was portrayed as the savior of the Alawites) was crawling when Aziz Hawash (father of Muhammad) was the governor of the Houran Brigade that included vast swathes of Syria including the Golan, Daraa and Suwayd in 1933. When Hafez was 6-years-old, Hawash was the governor of Damascus Brigade which was the mother of the Syrian country, according to Alawite leaders.

Before that, even before the birth of Hafez, Aziz Hawash was the leader of the Damascus police (1926). Before the Ottomans (who were accused of persecuting the Alawites on a sectarian basis), he studied medicine in Istanbul and recruited in the Ottoman army as lieutenant and later promoted to the rank of captain.

Aziz had several sons, most of whom held senior positions in Syria before the advent of the trio which destroyed the Alawites and isolated them (Mohammad Omran, Salah Jadid, Hafez al-Assad).

Aziz's eldest son, Jihad, was a member of the Syrian parliament in the post-independence period between 1947 and 1954 and served as ambassador to several countries (Iraq, Turkey and Brazil). Aziz had another son, Qahtan who also was a member of the parliament between 1954 and 1961. His son Mohammed was dismissed arbitrarily by the coup members in 1963, had it not been for the "intervention" of Colonel Fahad al-Shaer who asked the coup members to forgive Mohammad and the decision was amended to issue his retirement!

Colonel Muhamad Hawash exclusion from the army, which became the Assad army later on, was not enough. They started to tighten on him after Hafez assumed power until he wanted to leave. In other words, he was pushed to exile to France where he spend the rest of his life. He did not have the chance to visit Syria which he wrote about (the Making of the Republic of Syria and the Mandate) nor he was able to visit his region which he wrote about (About Alawites and their Independent State). This book is considered by many researchers to be a reference for the history of the Alawites and their tribal divisions and the roles they played, especially during the French Mandate. The author used several archive documents from France official archive.

Diaa Pasha

Despite the relative uniquness of Muhammad Hawash in what he wrote regarding this, there were some reservations on his book “the Alawites and their Independent State”especially in relation to promoting the narrative of persecution of the Alawites by the Ottoman administrator in Lattakia Diaa Pasha. According to Hawash’s allegations, when Diaa Pasha was bored, he would order the janissary to raid one of the Nusairi villages and arrest a number of residents and take them to the governor's presence, which orders them to be placed on the piles. When Diaa Pasha saw them on the piles, his heart would rejoice as they are suffering and dying slowly and Diaa Pasha would be smoking his nargile.

This narrative was refuted and ridiculed by several Alawite authors including Salman Yusuf, who tells clearly how the father of “Sheikh Saleh Ali “ met with the Ottoman administrator Diaa Pasha in 1886 in Lattakia. The meeting had great results through clear instructions from "Sultan Abdul Hamid who ordered the construction of 50 universities and 50 schools in the mountains of the Alawites. Even further, one of the most honorable sheikhs of Alawites and their symbols Abdul Rahman al-Khair goes on to say that the Alawites have to commemorate him (Diaa Pasha) in their social history with sheets filled with sincere praise and recognition of his efforts and to be grateful that he only worked to civilize them. Diaa Pasha approached respected them he was just in his reign, and oversaw the creation of "eighty Princely schools in each of them a mosque was built distributed among the densely populated villages mosque at government expense."

Thus, in the summary of this brief section on a part of the history of Muhammad Aziz Hawash the dismissed officer and historian, it is clear that the Ottomans treated the Alawites - like others - from the logic of politics and the balance of interests. The Ottomans did not treat Alawites according to the sectarian logic which has great effect and the evidence is that Ottomans used to give bek titles to Alawite dignitaries and did not hesitate to assign Alawites administration affairs to dignitaries, as long as they are not willing to fight the government or contact foreign countries, as it is evident with the case of al-Hawash's biography. Starting with their eldest grandfather Ismail Khair Bek who was the governor of Safita and Ottomans did not dispute with him until he did. At the end, he was killed by his own sect fellow and uncle al-Shleh. 

The most important conclusion of Hawash family and their history is that the Alawites and their dignitaries dealt with the rest of the Syrians from a political perspective. The dignitaries did not have to behave according to the minority mentality (although they belonged to the minority). They are the dignitaries who used to get what they want of privileges and rights for them and their community. Accordingly, the rest of Syrians treated them with the logic of politics, until the star of the Alawites "destroyers" ascended, and their first work blew up the bridges of politics and erected the bridges of sectarianism to use it when Alawites are aware again and this is what we will try to shed light on in an upcoming report that reveals more. To be continued. 

Note from report writer: Except for the coup d'état, it is not the task of this report nor its objectives to criminalize, nor even to justify, a person, group, sect, or government. Rather, it is intended to illuminate facts that have been hidden or obscured, and references approved by Alawites specifically.
Zaman Al Wasl
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